Mary Jane and Buddy Hemphill had a difficult road settling in Cleveland, but with the gift of friendship and generosity, they have found their place. Mary Jane, a Delta native, moved to Pass Christian on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when she and Buddy were married. When Hurricane Katrina swept through Mississippi, their home on the beach was leveled to nothing more than a concrete slab. “We had a storage room where we kept all of our most valued possessions when a hurricane was on its way,” says Mary Jane. “But it didn’t survive either. So, we lost absolutely everything.”
The Hemphills first evacuated to Jackson but moved further north when Jackson lost power. “We stayed with our friends in Jackson, but we are fair-weather friends and set out in search for electricity,” laughs Mary Jane. When they went back and discovered their home was no more, they decided to settle in Cleveland and rented an apartment, although they had no furnishings. “After the storm, we left to go check on our lot, and when we came back, our Cleveland apartment was fully furnished by my book club friends, many of whom I’ve known since childhood.” In an act of love and giving, Mary Jane’s longtime Delta friends brought in everything from Oriental rugs to recipes to art to refrigerator magnets to make the place feel like home for the Hemphills.
“Nothing in life can prepare you to lose everything,” says Mary Jane. “We lost every family photo. My children have no visual past. I lost all my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. But I never cried; I just got busy.”
After making the decision to settle in Cleveland, the Hemphills found an enchanting cottage in the small town. “It had old coffered ceilings, hardwood floors and a screened-in porch,” says Mary Jane. “So I bought it without Buddy even seeing it. He has always said I’m never afraid to pull the trigger.” The home was built in 1927 and has long been known as the “McClellan Home” for the family that built it. When the Hemphills took ownership, they added walk-in closets, a laundry room and a “liquids room,” where the beer and whiskey reside.
With a hint of Craftsman-style architecture, the warm, inviting home is a mixture of wide-ranging styles. “I don’t really have a style I like in particular. If I see something I like, I buy it,” explains Mary Jane. “Even if I don’t have a place for it, I’ll find one. Specific styles and this house are a contradiction.” When it came to decorating their new space, Mary Jane wanted it to feel warm and collected, like the home she grew up in. A wide array of antique furniture fits the bill, along with an extensive collection of art, including a piece that hung above her apartment mantle by Mary Jane’s close friend, Nan Sanders.
“Nothing came into this house unless it reminded me of something I love,” says Mary Jane. The single thing that was salvaged from the storm was a cut-glass bowl that had been Mary Jane’s grandfather’s. It was found sitting in the sand on the beach near her coastal home. Favorite pieces brought in were two eight-foot tall Irish chests that grace the bedroom and a bar that is an antique Indian piece. “Buddy deserves a lot of credit,” says Mary Jane. “He was right there with me on all of these scavenger hunts.”
“I love the way in this house, there’s a picture on every square inch of the walls,” says Mary Jane. “It really feels warm and like home.”